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ANIMALS

Boy oh boy! Two male pandas make public debut at Berlin Zoo

The cuteness level at Berlin Zoo doubled on Monday when a pair of twin panda cubs made their public debut, with the zoo revealing the cuddly bundles of fur were both boys.

Boy oh boy! Two male pandas make public debut at Berlin Zoo
The panda twins Meng Yuan (l) und Meng Xiang (r) being held by zookeepers at Berlin Zoo. Photo: DPA

The little ones were born at the zoo on August 31st but in keeping with Chinese tradition they were only named after 100 days.

Speaking before a crowd of excited reporters at the Panda Garden, zoo director Andreas Knieriem announced that the cubs would go by the names of Meng Xiang, meaning “long-awaited dream” and Meng Yuan, or “dream come true”.

The twins, weighing around six kilos each, then made their long-awaited first appearance before the world's media.

READ ALSO: Berlin panda Meng Meng gives birth to twins

Wheeled out in a glass-cased “panda bed”, they were seen lounging close together on a heated mattress.

One of the cubs appeared half-asleep and unfazed by the attention, while his more active brother repeatedly turned his back on the press pack, prompting coos and laughter.

But the general public will have to wait a little longer for their own glimpse of the zoo's newest stars.

The two twin pandas together on a heated mattress on Monday morning. Photo: DPA

The cubs will be kept away from visitors “until they can walk properly” and are more familiar with their surroundings, Knieriem said, expected to be sometime in early 2020.

The birth of the cubs has delighted Berlin's oldest zoo as it is notoriously hard to breed pandas — and twins are even rarer.

Their mother Meng Meng and male giant panda Jiao Qing arrived in Berlin in June 2017 to great fanfare.

READ ALSO: Berlin zoo confirms panda Meng Meng is pregnant

China lends pandas to zoos around the world — a programme dubbed “panda diplomacy”.

Berlin zoo pays €13.5 million for a 15-year contract to host the adult pandas, with most of the money going towards a conservation and breeding research programme in China.

While the twin cubs were born in Berlin, they remain Chinese and must be returned to China within four years after they have been weaned.

About 1,864 pandas remain in the wild in China, up from around 1,000 in the late 1970s, according to the environmental group WWF.

Just over 400 pandas live in zoos around the world, in conservation projects set up with Beijing.

The species is considered “vulnerable” to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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ANIMALS

Swan Late: Mourning bird holds up German trains

A swan mourning the death of its companion on a German railway track held up 23 trains for almost an hour and had to be removed by firefighters using special equipment, police said.

Swan Late: Mourning bird holds up German trains
A swan sat on the tracks, mourning its companion. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Bundespolizei/Bundespolizei

The two birds had strayed onto the track area of the high-speed line between Kassel and Göttingen in central Germany “during an excursion”, according to Kassel police.

One of the birds died, likely after getting caught in the overhead power cables, said the statement on the December 23rd incident, which was made public late on Monday.

Its companion then sat beside the body in mourning, resisting attempts by officials to lure it away and temporarily closing the line to traffic.

Firefighters with special equipment were later called in and managed to lift the dead swan and its surviving companion away from the area.

Twenty-three trains were delayed for about 50 minutes while the rescue operation took place, the police statement said.

The surviving swan was unharmed and later released onto the river Fulda, it
added.

According to Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, swans try to find a mate for life.

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